The weather is getting warmer, and we can feel that spring is in the air. But, colourful blossoms on the trees are not the only signs of a new season that we’re rejoicing in. As a Children’s Ministry Team, we have a spring in our step and we’re joyfully celebrating a number of ‘new blossoms’ that God has provided.
The XChange Centre recently got a fresh coat of paint, and we just love the burst of colour. We will also do some more work on the downstairs area during the rest of the year – soon the walls will be decorated with jungle trees and animals, and the classes filled with some toys and props for all our young Bible Adventure Club explorers to enjoy.
While our ultimate aim isn’t to have the best, most exciting buildings and equipment, we do believe that environments play a vital part in our ministry to children. If everyone on our team is like a gardener who plants gospel seeds in kids’ hearts, our environments help to nurture those seeds to take root. We want to create physical spaces where kids feel welcome, excited, and safe to learn and explore their faith. We also want our environments to reflect just how much we value children. There is still a lot of work to be done in this regard, but we are so grateful for the steps we’ve been able to take towards our vision for our learning environments.
The second area in which we’ve recently seen signs of new life and growth is worship at Kids’ Bible School (Gr0-7). Corporate worship is a key aspect of a disciple’s life, and we want children to love and value worshipping Jesus with other members of his family from an early age. Until now, worship has been challenging due to limited resources, and we learned that lyric videos alone are not the most effective way to lead kids in worship. We are so grateful to God for providing us with a new KBS Worship Team. He has sent a group of energetic, faithful, young people who are on fire for Jesus to help lead the songs and actions. We pray that God will grow this team and continue to use each member as they point kids to the gospel and model how to glorify Jesus.
We also hope all our Spark families have been enjoying the new take on Fire Drills! Fire Drills are a tool that Nicola developed to equip parents for discipling their children. Each Friday, a Fire Drill is handed out with the main points from the lesson and some related activities and questions to go through at home. This term, the Fire Drills have been flipped around: instead of reinforcing the previous lesson, the children take home a Fire Drill related to the following Friday evening. In this way, families can work through the Bible passage and topic during the week, and children can prepare their hearts before the next Spark evening.
Lastly, our routine at KBS (Gr 0-7s) received some ‘spring cleaning’ this term. We now begin the morning with a fun game to break the ice and make everyone feel welcome. The game is related to the lesson, and introduces the children to what they will be learning in an interactive way. After that, the children have their time of teaching and discussion, and this takes up the bulk of our time with the children. We end the morning all together in the hall for praise and worship, and the kids can be collected here at the end of the service.
We have ordered things in this way for a couple of reasons. First, this helps us to love our team better, as they can always have a set time for their lessons. When the teaching time was at the end, lessons would often get cut short if the main service came out early. Our teachers are now able to plan their lessons knowing exactly how much time they will have. Secondly, we found that a game at the start helps children to feel relaxed and ready to learn (They are also more likely to remember the lesson than the fun activity if it’s to the closer end!). Finally, by coming together at the end for worship, the children can respond to what they’ve learned about God and be reminded that they belong to a big, special family.
As we look back on the year so far, we celebrate all that God has done in RUC’s Children’s Ministry, and we excitedly look forward to continued growth and fruitfulness. We pray that we’ll see God’s kingdom grow even more, that young hearts will keep being transformed and that each child will impact the world around them for Jesus’ glory in all seasons of life.
The parables of Jesus are not just stories we read. They are stories that read us. They unmask us to see ourselves in the mirror of the characters portrayed.
Jesus the master story-teller is able to disarm us with parables. We let our guard down, we enter in, we feel the emotions, we make value judgements on the story and then bam! … the truth reads us! That’s you and me in the parable! Pharisees, tax collectors, leaders, disciples, sinners, the lost, the found, the wise, the foolish, the ready, the unprepared!
But the parables don’t just read us, they read us in the light of Kingdom realities. They make the unfamiliar realities of God’s Kingdom plain to us, using everyday realities like: coins, seeds, soil, trees, barns, rocks, fields, pearls, animals, lamps, food, feasting, sons, workers, judges, etc.
But the parables don’t just illuminate truth, they also conceal truth. Jesus said in Matthew 13:13: “This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’” There is mystery to the parables. There is truth to be mined beneath the surface like treasure hidden in a field. The parables read our inability to respond to truth. Everyone has ears, but not everyone hears their meaning. Those who hear and respond are revealed to be his disciples, but those who don’t remain in darkness.
Won’t you pray that Jesus would open your eyes to the truth of who you are in the light of these stories? Won’t you pray that you will be astounded by the divinity & humanity of the God-man who is able to package eternal truth in word-pictures that even a child can understand?
May we be like those first hearers of parables of whom it was said: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority.” (Matthew 7:28-29)
We’re living in times where everyone is incredibly well connected. At any moment we can have a chat or a face-to-face video conversation with a friend or family member anywhere in the world. We have access to unlimited knowledge at the tip of our fingers. We have countless social media connections and have often intimate knowledge of what is happening in the lives of all sorts of random people. We know where they went on the weekend, we know when they last exercised (and how far or how fast they ran). And similarly, many people know all sorts of personal details about our own lives. Often a person’s emotional well-being can rise or fall on the attention (or lack thereof) that these little titbits can garner for them. Increasingly our very identities are being shaped and formed by these virtual audiences.
And yet, how many people actually KNOW you? How many people genuinely know or care what is going on in your heart? How meaningful is your connectedness?
One of our core values as a church is Significant Community. We long to see every member connected into the life of the church through meaningful friendships and gospel centred community. The reality is that, as far as normal church sizes go, Rosebank Union is quite large; and as a large church, it is very easy for people to come and go each week without ever being genuinely known or loved or cared for. Consequently such a person’s experience of real church will inevitably be superficial and a bit cold. They may enjoy the worship service, they may be fed by the biblical preaching, they may be encouraged by hearing testimonies or in times of reflection and prayer, but their growth towards maturity in Christ will be stunted without relationships where they can be known, loved and cared for.
In scripture, the church is described using a number of different organic images. Jesus said that he is the vine and we are the branches and that if we abide in him (stay connected to the vine) we will bear much fruit (John 15). The church is also described as being the flock of God – a community that follows Christ and receives care, protection, and leadership through Jesus Christ, the good shepherd (John 10: 11-16; 1 Peter 5: 2-4). And the church is also well described as being the body of Christ where Christ is the head and we all form the various parts according the gifts and grace God has given us (Romans 12: 4-5).
In all these images, the concept of being connected, or belonging is very important. The bible knows of no such thing as unconnected Christians.
Because of this, one of our goals as a church is to have every member connected to some form of group.
It may be a serving team where people can use their gifts to serve together
It may be a workshop or class where people can learn together or share together during some specific life stage (like a marriage course or Griefshare or bible course)
It may be a social community where people can connect with like-minded Christians (like KnitWits or Section Community)
Or it may be a Community Group or Life on Life Missional Discipleship Group where people can people can come together for intentional discipleship and bible study.
In whatever way suits your life and availability, we want to encourage you to Get Connected!
We are currently in a preaching series in Psalm 23. Psalm 23 has been described as: “The Psalm of Psalms”, “The pearl of Psalms”; “A jewel of pure gold among the many jewels of Scripture”, “The nightingale of the Psalms” – as the weeks go by we can add our own descriptions to this Psalm.
These are some of the lessons I am learning as I preach through the Psalm:
We must not neglect “famous” passages of Scripture
We can neglect to study Psalm 23 because we think we know it so well. Perhaps we have just assumed we know it well. Perhaps the saying, “familiarity breeds contempt” has permeated our lives more than we realise.
Os Guinness, in a book I read some years ago said that the first step towards compromise in the church is: assumption! When we assume we know some truth of Scripture, we no longer investigate those sections of Scripture. The next generation never knows why we believe what we believe because of that assumption. Guinness says that it is a slippery slope from: assumption to abandonment to adaptation and finally assimilation and into compromise.
We need to revisit the beauty of “famous” texts so we can enjoy again why they became “famous” in the first place. What a joy to experience right here in Sandton, South Africa, in 2019 why Psalm 23 has sustained, comforted and encouraged God’s sheep down through the ages.
We must slow down when we read Scripture to experience Christ!
A lady came up after a recent sermon in Psalm 23 and said, “I am so grateful we are only doing one verse per week. I think that covering one verse has been just enough for me to handle, remember and take out into each week.”
Often our Bible reading can just mirror our high speed bandwidth culture of information overload and superficial reading. Psalm 23 lends itself to slowing down and reflecting on each word and causal relationship in the text. Mining the depths of Psalm 23 involves understanding the background and context; applying it to our lives takes consistent work and time. Only when you slow down do you see truths that you would normally miss. Meditating is learning to “lie down in green pastures” and digesting God’s Word so it reshapes our hearts and lives! You may know Psalm 23, but do you know the Shepherd of Psalm 23?
Applying God’s Word in daily life is hard!
Knowing the Psalm is easy, but knowing its reality is hard! Seeing evil and feeling afraid comes easily to sheep, but allowing the nearness of the Shepherd to overshadow your skittishness is hard!
In the week following the sermon on Psalm 23:2 we had a week of loadshedding and traffic jams. It took me 3 hours one day to drop kids at school, get to work and home again. It was hard for me, the preacher to practice what I had just preached and to “lie down in the traffic” even as our city clawed their way to work.
Some of you have shared how God has used the first few verses to expose secret sin and to begin a process of restoration. Other have shared how your Shepherd has been sustaining you in very difficult times. Applying God’s Word is hard, but despite our weakness as sheep, in Christ we have a great Shepherd who is leading us!
Oh Lord may this truth reshape our reality! “The Lord is my shepherd!” Amen!
by Paul Schamberger
New missionary flat at RUC is like a home from home
RUC recently announced the opening of a spacious new flat on the church’s property for visiting missionaries and their families.
Paul Schamberger asked Jenni Kurten, Missions Co-ordinator, and Erin Wiesner, who project-managed the refurbishment and the furnishing of the new accommodation, about the flat and its purpose.
P: What is the rationale for this flat? Don’t RUC missionaries have their own homes to go to when they return for breaks or holidays?
J: Almost all have sold their homes and have gone to be missionaries full time. We have one or two missionaries who still own their South African home, but they would invariably have a tenant living in it.
The flat can be used by RUC’s 23 missionaries who work in SA, elsewhere in Africa and around the world. But there are others who work in the missionary field who are attached to different missionary organisations, and they can also be put up here.
We moved the previous missions flat to this part of the building as it’s larger and has an extra bedroom and bathroom. Whereas the old flat had only one bedroom, accommodating families with kids was awkward. Now we can even accommodate short-term teams, who might come from overseas to serve with Rays of Hope.
E: Sometimes we have missionaries coming from countries such as Malawi or Zambia because they need medical treatment either for themselves or for a sick child, and need affordable accommodation. Often they can’t afford to stay in a b&b or to rent rooms. We can lend a helping hand.
Most visiting missionaries are faced with financial constraints because missionary organisations don’t pay salaries; the missionaries have to raise their own support. RUC supports its own missionaries up to 30% of their support needs, depending into which category they fall, so they have to raise the balance of 70%+ themselves. Fortunately, generous support tends to come from RUC members, but also from other churches and related organisations.
P: How many couples can stay here at the same time?
J: We accommodate one family at a time. When people come back with a crisis to cope with, such as a medical emergency, or a planned furlough, you don’t want anyone else living in your space. For groups, the flat can sleep up to nine people, dormitory-style. This would be ideal for a team of young adults on a short-term missionary trip. There would be room for all of them around the dining room table.
We are fully booked until June 2019, and therefore might still call on members to put up visiting missionaries in their homes.
P: What kind of work had to be done to the new flat?
J: No extra building was required, but it did need more than a lick of paint! Except for some furniture from the old flat, everything was donated. You cannot believe the generosity of our church member when the call went out to help furnish the flat. For some items we had to arrange transport, but people mostly dropped off their items right here – anything from cushions, carpets and pictures to a dishwasher! Amazingly, we didn’t get a single duplicate item except for a double bed! This item we could give away. We also received a donation of R5,000 which was perfect as we could buy linen for the children’s room and other small necessities.
P: Who does the cleaning?
The church’s cleaning staff is fully occupied, so we outsource that function. While people are staying here they are responsible for their own cleaning, washing, ironing, whatever. And they cook their own meals.
Erin Wiesner, who is an administrator at the church, was seconded as the project manager for the renovation and refurbishing of the new flat.
She has intensive boots-on-the ground experience in construction and maintenance work, including issuing tenders, getting quotes, writing contracts and conducting the ensuing negotiations; liaising with the Church Council, which has to approve all expenditures; tracking down reliable suppliers; building-site co-ordination; knowing and complying with all relevant municipal regulations; selecting and employing a trustworthy handyman, and so on.
She has the perfect recipe for ensuring that all work get done properly, on budget and on time: “I am very good at nagging,” she smiles. “It’s a gift.”
Erin estimates that the total cost came in “under ten grand”.
Erin says the actual work on the flat took about six weeks to complete. It entailed a thorough clean-up of the premises, the installation of plumbing and electricity, and having all the walls repainted. The refurbishing took another month.
Wendy Lock of RUC, who is linked to Wycliffe Bible Translators, has been teaching missionary children at Faith Academy in Manila, Philippines, for 15 years. She was the first tenant to move into the new flat recently.
Wendy has stayed in the previous flat numerous times, and expected to do so again this time round.
“I thought I would get a mattress to put on the floor. Instead, I was told I could move into the new flat. The last one was a blessing, but this one is amazing!
“We don’t have dishwashers in the Philippines, or hot water that comes out of a tap.
“It’s lovely and it’s so quiet. In the mornings I make some tea and just sit and have time with the Lord while the beautiful sun comes streaming in. It’s like a haven to me. I have been staying here for six weeks, but have been away for some of the time.
“I have a small one-bedroom apartment below someone’s house in the Philippines, but don’t have a place I can call my own here. I have been staying here for six weeks. So it’s great to be able to stay in the mission flat when I’m here on furlough.
“I feel so blessed by the church that cares for us missionaries in such a beautiful way.”
Picking the brain of Ndaba Mazabane, Board Member of MAF International
Ndaba joined the MAFI Board in September 2016. He serves as an associate pastor at Rosebank Union Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has also served as the fourth President of the International College of Bible and Missions (ICBM) based in Roodepoort, South Africa.
Ndaba recently returned from a MAF International board meeting and visit to MAF programmes, South Sudan and Kenya. We took the opportunity to pick his brain from his first-hand experience of the MAF field and of his thoughts on modern day mission work.
What stood out for you on your visit to Kenya and South Sudan?
I was delighted to see how MAF supported and enabled so many different kinds of outreaches to function in the middle of nowhere.
Although we live in a globalised world, isolation is still a harsh reality. We flew to one of MAF’s mission partners, RedTribe. It was an hour’s flight, but it would have taken days to drive in good weather. The short distance from the landing strip to the community we were visiting was only 8km, but it took an hour or so to drive because of the quality of the road infrastructure.
It was a privilege to see the missionaries’ tenacity. Before visiting South Sudan, we had to undergo an hour of security briefing about health, curfews, kidnapping and ransoms. We were only entering for a short period of time. Missionaries choose to live there with their children long-term. Their sheer commitment to spreading the gospel, their life of sacrifice and their joy of serving God in spite of challenging conditions in the face of danger really ministered to me.
What were some of the “take home” messages for you?
I came back grateful for those supporting MAF financially and prayerfully, for the volunteers giving their time and skills and the churches who are partnering with MAF. We are able to bridge the gap between the gospel and the isolated because of our supporters. Thank you.
Another take home for me was that often when we think of Mission Aviation Fellowship, we emphasise aviation. People think of pilots when they think of MAF. But without the other staff roles, the pilots cannot function. On the field there is a need for administrators, for engineers, for teachers.
MAF is doing their best to change the mind-set that we just need pilots. The fact that there is a Maasai Academy in the middle of nowhere means that there will be a need for teachers.
The needs on the mission field are many and diverse. When I visited Kenya, I met a Stock Control Manager, Engineers and Administrators and when visiting the Juba Christian Academy in South Sudan I found out that they are constantly looking for Teachers. What a joy to see how MAF comes alongside the church where there is a pool of skills, to be tapped into for Kingdom work. I am mindful of the the difficulty of raising support as an Administrator or Engineer on the mission field. But if those positions aren’t filled, how else are we to reach the isolated? The face of missions has changed. But the mission field still relies on the support of the church.
I encourage those who have a sense of God’s call on their lives to use their skill on the mission field. Ask the advice of your church and your trusted friends. You are going to need your church and friends and family behind you when you are on the field. Then get in touch with MAF.
I am a strong believer of when God calls us – He employs every area of our lives – your spiritual gifting, your personality and your passion. Those three things work together to make a unique person with a unique purpose.
Proverbs 22:29 says, if you are skilled then be prepared to serve. God took an educated man like Moses and used him in His service. He took David as a shepherd boy and made him a king. From a variety of skills God can use us.
The appeal is out there – if you feel the sense of call of God on your life to work in the mission field, come. Discuss with MAF whether this is the platform for you to help reach those who are physically and spiritually isolated. The field is ready for harvesting. God is seeking both your ability and availability.
What is your view of the modern-day missionary?
Missionaries are not only white. (Ndaba laughs.) The paradigm has shifted. The countries that used to send missionaries in large numbers have now become the mission field. Europe used to send missionaries and today they are receiving them. The centre for Christianity has shifted from the West to the rest of the world. America might still be sending missionaries in large numbers, but South Korea is not dissimilar, as the second largest sending force.
The stereotypical understanding of the missionary needs to break. God calls anyone. They say in London the largest church is Nigerian.
My prayer is that God would raise up the willing and the dedicated disciples who are ready to help fulfil the Great Commission in our generation.
What is your personal background?
I was born in England but in 1975, my family immigrated to South Africa. I was four years old. That was when we joined Rosebank Union Church. It was still meeting in the old Spanish church on Tyrwhitt Avenue. I went through the Sunday School and Youth Groups at Rosebank and loved being part of the amazing church. When I finished high school I spent two years on a Music and Drama team which was part of the Baptist Youth of South Africa. It was called the WOW team (Win Our World). When I returned I did a 6 month secretarial course and then was employed full time at Rosebank Union as the Church receptionist. I loved my time working for the church as well as being involved in the youth work of the church and the music ministry. I ran a little teens choir and began leading worship in the evening services. After 4 years of working full time at Rosebank I felt the desire to go and study and to at least get a degree behind my name. God opened the doors for me to study teaching through Wits university and the church graciously allowed me to continue working for them part time during my studies. The moment I set foot in a classroom, I knew that teaching was what I was born to do. I look back at my time at Rosebank and realize that the church shaped my life not only spiritually but in so many other areas as well.
When and how did you come to faith in Jesus?
Growing up in the Sunday school I kept giving my life to Jesus over and over again. Each time I just wanted to make sure I had done it properly. You see, as a little girl I feared death and was never 100% sure that I was really a child of God. But then at the age of 13 I was on Scripture Union camp down at Port Edward. On Easter Sunday morning at a sunrise service God met me in the most beautiful way. It was the final time I asked Jesus into my heart because from that moment on I knew I had the Holy Spirit living inside of me and that the amazing gift of eternal life was waiting for me no matter what lay ahead. I wanted to spend time with God and grow in my relationship with Him.
Why did you become a missionary?
I have always loved being part of a church where missions plays such an important role. Praying and supporting missionaries has also always been a huge value in my family as well. But I must confess that growing up I was definitely the one who would say “Here am I Lord, but send someone else!”. I will give and pray but I do not want to go. But during my first year of teaching I read a missionary biography by a lady called Isobel Kuhn. Reading her call to missions stirred my heart but more than anything I was deeply moved by the sacrifices that she had to make with her children. As her heart broke, when she put her little 6 year old daughter into boarding school, my heart broke as well. The Holy Spirit whispered gently to me “That’s where you can be involved in world missions, you can go and teach and love missionary children, while their parents are on the front lines.” It was so amazing, a week later I found myself at a Missions Meeting and there was a couple sharing about a school for Missionary Children in the Philippines that desperately needed teachers, Faith Academy. God had stirred my heart and then presented the need, how could I say NO to Him.
How are you currently involved in missions?
It took a couple more years before I finally left to go and teach at Faith Academy. One of the things that played a huge role in those two years of waiting was being part of a missions accountability group. Its so easy to hear God’s call to missions, but Satan does not want us to go and so many obstacles can stand in the way. The ‘Go Group’ met every Friday morning at 6:00am to not only pray for missions but to also keep each other on track and praying for each other as we applied to the mission’s organizations, raised support and prepared to go. Every single person that was part of that ‘Go Group’ ended up on the mission field. I love that this mission group that started up 18 years ago still meets every Friday morning at 6:00am to pray for our missionaries.
I have now completed my 15th year at Faith Academy. I actually can’t believe it! Where has the time gone?. It has been an incredible Faith journey as I have seen God provide in such an incredible way. I am so grateful to Rosebank Union Church who have been there for me every step of my journey and who have not only supported me financially but prayed, cared and encouraged me in every step along the way. I love that there have been 5 different short term mission groups that have come out to visit me in Manila. Each time they have come, it has been such an encouragement. There is really no place like Rosebank Union Church and I am so grateful to be part of this family.
How can RUC pray for you?
- Please pray for the 26 or so little first graders that will be in my class this coming school year. Pray that there will be a precious sense of belonging for each one and that God would knit us together as a little team, encouraging and building one another up.
- Please pray that I will continually lean into God for his wisdom and strength each and every day. Teaching first graders can be tough in itself but sometimes I get overwhelmed with the diversity of needs that there are in my classroom. I wish we had remedial teachers, occupational therapists and speech therapists, but unfortunately we don’t. Pray that I will keep my eyes fixed on God and that I will allow the spirit of God to fill me so that He can give me wisdom, ability and expertise in my teaching. (Exodus 35:31)
- Pray personally that I will prioritize what is important and that I will make time for a balance in my life.
- Pray for staffing needs. We are always needing teachers but this coming school year the needs seem even bigger. We critically need high school English teachers and Elementary Classroom teachers. Pray also that those who are hoping to join us on staff will be able to raise their support to be with us for the beginning of the school year.